Indian Premier League April 5, 2010

Finding form is difficult in Twenty20


Yuvraj Singh skies a catch in an attempt to rediscover form © Indian Premier League

Yuvraj Singh’s form, or the lack of it, has been the talk of the town for since the beginning of IPL 2010. The Twenty20 pros Dilshan and Jayasuriya have also already lost their places in their respective sides. And there are others like Kumar Sangakarra, and AB de Villiers who are getting a lot of flak too.

Ever wondered why more than half a dozen good players are struggling to excel in this format? Well, Twenty20 is a ruthless format. It not only magnifies your weakness but also refuses the time to rectify them. So, if you happen to walk into this format without form and confidence or if you happen to hit a rough patch in the middle of the tournament, you’re most likely doomed.

The golden rule of scoring runs is to spend time in the middle. Ideally instead of looking for runs, one should not be averse to paying a few dot balls in the beginning. Then take a few singles and twos before going for boundary shots. In a fifty-over game, you can always make up for the dot balls later but Twenty20 doesn’t give you that luxury.

The construction of a Twenty20 innings is quite different to how it is done in ODIs. Even in a Twenty20 game, one can afford to start slowly. Yet, starting slowly in Twenty20 does not mean playing dot balls, but aiming to take those vital singles.

A strike-rate of 100 is the bare minimum that a batsman should strive for, that too only for the first 6-7 balls. A boundary must follow soon or else you may be jeopardising your team’s chances of scoring big. The only exception to this rule is if you’re blessed to have a Yusuf Pathan-like- batsman at the other end or your team is chasing an insignificant total. Gautam Gambhir found that ally in Dinesh Karthik against the Royals. Karthik’s heroics allowed Gambhir to bide his time. On the contrary, Ganguly tried something similar against Mumbai Indians but unfortunately Gayle wasn’t batting that fluently either and hence he received a lot of flak for playing slowly.

Bowlers too have to put up with form blues. A bowler low on confidence might just bowl a couple of loose balls in the beginning. In a fifty-over game, he might get away with it because the batsmen are not always on the offensive. But in Twenty20, even good balls disappear for fours and sixes, let alone the bad deliveries. So he better be on the spot from the first ball or perish.

But this format also dictates that you fail more often than you succeed. The averages tell the story. Most batsmen average in the mid-20s and only a few in the 30s. I’m yet to see a batsman averaging in 40s in this format. So how do players get back to scoring after a failure or two? Since biding time is not possible in this format, the only way to come back to form is to be positive and take the initiative. You must get to your opposition before they get to you. Certain players hit their way out of trouble, which is considered almost blasphemous in other formats, but in Twenty20, the ones who do so, make the quickest comebacks.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here